Maggie Appleton

Designer, anthropologist, and mediocre developer.

A Little Context

I sit at the intersection of design, anthropology, and programming. These three are at the core of everything I make. Combining them into a coherent career is a weird and ongoing challenge.

Titles and disciplines are fickle and fleeting. But my work fits under the umbrellas of UX design, visual interface design, and DX (developer experience). With some cultural analysis, writing, and visual illustration sprinkled on top.

I currently lead design at

where we're exploring how machine learning can help researchers with open-ended reasoning.

I'm not currently available for any contract work, side projects, or full-time roles.

Before Elicit I was head of design at

– a company developing an open-source platform to improve the way we structure knowledge on the web.

Before that I spent five years at the developer education company

as the art director and UX designer. It was there that I developed a system for visualising programming concepts through metaphors and cultural symbols.

On the side I create

and visual explanations about programming and culture. I'm an advocate of , , and expanding our use of and in digital interfaces.

A Little History

I'm originally from London but grew up in international schools in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.

I earned my undergraduate degree in

at a small, hippie, liberal arts college in the United States. While I adore anthropology, it's not terribly employable (unless you want to be an academic or a military advisor) and I promptly switched into freelance design and illustration to pay rent. I started developing my visual design skills at age 14 when I first bootlegged a copy of Photoshop to make my own icon sets, but never realised you could get paid for that.

In my early twenties I country-hopped while working through the early, ugly, awkward phase of my design sensibilities. I worked with web developers in Vietnam, trained with feature film illustrators in Los Angeles, and learned typography and brand design at creative agencies in Prague. I made a lot of hideous stuff, but figured out what I liked along the way.

I eventually returned to London to become a more settled, "normal" adult, and have come to love the dull stability of home.

a photo of maggie appleton


I occasionally give talks. Some are about why we should use more visual explanations and intentional metaphors in programming. Others touch on cultural anthropology topics and the narratives we tell ourselves in the world of software.

a photo of maggie speaking on stagea photo of maggie answering questions after a talka photo of maggie in front of a large presentation slide


A handful of kind and interesting people have been gracious enough to let me ramble about programming, metaphors, and/or programming metaphors on their podcasts.